Global Waters
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Global Waters

Photo Essay: Picturing a #WaterSecureWorld

Global Waters Salutes the Winners of its 2018 Photo Contest

Judges selected the winning photos (above) based on their clarity and relevance to the subject area, creativity, photographic quality, and whether they conveyed positive WASH behaviors. (See full images below for photo credits.)

In January, the #WaterSecureWorld photo contest invited readers, project implementers, USAID mission personnel, and other water professionals to submit photos that help illustrate the breadth, scope, and impact of USAID’s efforts to confront and overcome the world’s water challenges.

Photographers from across the globe submitted 119 photos, illustrating water activities in 28 countries and representing more than 30 different USAID activities. Some evocatively capture people’s daily struggle to secure the most basic necessities of life — water. Others convey the transformative effect of a water point, a household toilet, or a community’s involvement in improving sanitation options. Many illuminate the faces on the front lines of USAID’s water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) work — entrepreneurs, engineers, health workers, utility operators, and government officials.

A panel of USAID judges chose a winner in each of seven categories, selected to highlight some of the emerging focus areas of the U.S. Government Global Water Strategy and USAID’s Water and Development Plan: Governance & Finance, Hygiene, Safe Drinking Water, Sanitation, Water Resources Management, Gender Equality and Empowerment, and Emergency WASH. Winning photos chosen in an eighth “Overall” category do not necessarily fit neatly into one of the above focus areas but still present a strong WASH message.

Take a closer look at the winners below and read the stories behind the pictures. Or peruse all the submissions on our Flickr site, many of which will be featured in the future on the @USAIDWater Twitter feed, on, and in other USAID publications such as Water Currents and the Global Water and Development annual report, which collectively reach thousands of readers.

Thanks to all the contest participants for sharing their work and putting a face to USAID’s water work around the world.


Managing Urban Waste in Indonesia

Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Photo credit: Yusuf Ahmad/USAID IUWASH SSEI

Providing safely managed sanitation is a persistent challenge around the world, and Indonesia is no exception. Latrines alone cannot ensure that families and communities are protected from exposure to fecal waste. Systems must be put into place to safely contain or dispose of the waste and prevent the harm it can cause to human health and the environment. Across Indonesia, poorly managed, non-sewered sanitation poses serious threats to public health, especially in densely populated, low-income urban areas.

In Makassar — one of the Indonesia’s largest cities — USAID’s Indonesia Urban Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene project (IUWASH) partnered with the operators of the Makassar wastewater treatment system to help them put regularly scheduled desludging services into place for the city’s 1.4 million residents. To date, desludging services are operational for all of the 130 communal septic tanks in the city in addition to households’ septic tanks.

Through IUWASH’s follow-on project, IUWASH PLUS, USAID is enhancing the city’s capacity to properly treat the sludge. Sixty-two percent of Makassar’s residents — or nearly a million people — can now access proper and healthy latrines with individual septic tanks that the city will desludge every two years. In this photo, Makassar‘s wastewater management unit is emptying a communal septic tank. USAID has elevated sanitation as a priority focus area due to its immense impact on global public health and has set the goal of providing improved sanitation to 8 million people as part of its Water and Development Plan. View on Flickr.

Submitted by USAID/Indonesia


Improving Safely Managed Water Access in Madagascar

Antananarivo, Madagascar. Photo credit: Tsilavo Rapiera/Replenish Africa Initiative

In Madagascar people are moving from the countryside to the cities at a faster rate than almost any other country in the world. This human urban migration is putting great strain on the country’s ability to provide basic services to these new residents, many of whom live in informal settlements. Water kiosks, such as this one in Antananarivo (funded by the Replenish Africa Initiative as part of a previous project), provide improved access to safely managed drinking water for the growing urban Malagasy population.

The Water and Development Alliance (WADA), a partnership between USAID and The Coca-Cola Foundation, has recently launched a project to build more than 350 water access points in Madagascar’s main urban areas. These water kiosks will increase sustainable access to safe drinking water for approximately 450,000 Malagasy citizens, a key objective of USAID’s Water and Development Plan.

The project serves to illustrate USAID’s emphasis on partnerships to achieve development results, as well as its commitment to the underserved and most vulnerable populations. View on Flickr.

Submitted by WADA


Evidence-Based Water Management in Jordan

King Abdullah Canal, Irbid Governorate, Jordan. Photo credit: Sofian Qurashi, USAID/Jordan Water Management Initiative

Per capita water availability in Jordan is among the lowest in the world, and demand is increasing. There are 661,859 registered refugees living in Jordan and the need for improved management of water resources is more urgent than ever. The USAID Water Management Initiative (WMI) is helping water utilities in Jordan build their capacity to collect and analyze data that informs water allocation decisions. As part of the initiative, USAID is working with the Jordan Ministry of Water and Irrigation’s Jordan Valley Authority to quantify water losses in the King Abdullah Canal (built by USAID in 1963), the country’s most important irrigation system for agriculture and municipal use in the capital city Amman.

The results of this analysis will be used to develop recommendations for cost-effective ways to reduce water loss in the canal. WMI is helping to reduce Jordan’s vulnerability to water-related risks and stresses and ensure that water supplies are available for the population. Both of these results are key goals of USAID’s efforts to improve management of water resources. View on Flickr.

Submitted by Tetra Tech


Capacity Building in Rural Upper Egypt

Sohag, Egypt. Photo credit: Nour Mamadouh/WADA

In Egypt, as in many other countries, water and sanitation utilities often lack the human resources, institutional, and governance capacity to develop, operate, and maintain self-sufficient and sustainable service providers. The Water and Development Alliance (WADA), a partnership between USAID and Coca-Cola, is addressing the issue by working with local water companies in underserved communities of Upper Egypt to improve access to water and sanitation services. One such community is Sohag.

In this photo, employees of the Sohag Water and Wastewater Company undertake training exercises to improve their GIS mapping skills for identifying leaks in water pipelines. The activity builds the capacity of the water utility provider to implement non-revenue water reduction activities such as leak detection and meter repair, to decrease water losses and enhance revenue, which will improve sustainability of the service. It also aligns with USAID’s goal to support capacity development of professionals in the government, private sector, and civil society responsible for water and sanitation and to train, support, and empower women to become key players in the sector. View on Flickr.

Submitted by WADA


Linking Hygiene and Nutrition in Tajikistan

Khuroson, Khatlon Province, Tajikistan. Photo credit: Mavjuda Maksudkhojaeva/Feed the Future Tajikistan Health and Nutrition Activity

Undernutrition in Tajikistan is a serious issue. In a country where some 17 percent of young children are stunted, many families lack awareness of good nutrition and access to fresh fruits and vegetables year-round. But diet is only part of the problem. The World Health Organization estimates that 50 percent of cases of child undernutrition are due to chronic diarrhea and intestinal infections caused by poor sanitation and hygiene. Chronic diarrhea during early childhood can impede the uptake of necessary nutrients. One simple, but highly effective solution is handwashing, which significantly reduces the risk of diarrhea.

Feed the Future’s Tajikistan Health and Nutrition Activity takes advantage of events like Global Handwashing Day to promote good hygiene behavior change. Demonstrations and role plays on hygiene, like this one in Tajikistan’s Khatlon Province, reflect USAID’s emphasis on improved social and behavior change approaches to promote correct and consistent hygiene practices. Such approaches help build capacity of community health workers and others to influence individual and communal behaviors, habits, and social norms. View on Flickr.

Submitted by USAID/Central Asia – Tajikistan


Empowering Women to Build Resiliency in South Sudan

Nyakuron West, Juba, South Sudan. Photo credit: USAID PROPEL Project

A group of female hygiene promoters receive training as part of the USAID Promoting Resiliency through Ongoing Participatory Engagement and Learning (PROPEL) program in South Sudan. PROPEL employs a locally driven, learning-focused approach to help communities in South Sudan improve resiliency. Through this and other WASH-related activities, USAID is helping to mainstream gender equality and empowerment in South Sudan.

USAID’s WASH activities are helping to mainstream gender equality, but the connection works both ways — when women and girls are not part of water management and decision-making, WASH-related activities are far less likely to succeed. In light of this fact, gender equality and empowerment is a cross-cutting component of all USAID activities. View on Flickr.

Submitted by Global Communities


Providing Clean Water and Sanitation During Conflict

Northern Syria. Photo credit: USAID/OFDA

During conflict, natural disasters, or other times of crisis, provision of WASH services is a top priority for the health and well-being of displaced populations such as those living in this large camp in northern Syria, where USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and its partners regularly provide safe drinking water and other services. Following proper practices, including regular sterilization of the water tanks, ensures that camp residents have access to safe drinking water.

USAID aims to ensure that short-term investments in emergency WASH — including the provision of safe, treated water — take advantage of local service delivery markets that will play a key role in helping the region’s long term recovery. View on Flickr.


Our panel of judges selected the above-winning photos in part because they tell a clear and compelling story about USAID’s WASH-related work in different countries. However, many submissions did not necessarily focus on USAID-specific WASH activities. We selected a few of these to be featured in the “Overall” category.

More Time in School, Less Time Finding Water in Ethiopia’s Lowlands

Gewane Woreda (district), Afar Region, Ethiopia. Photo credit: Michael Tewelde, AECOM/USAID Lowland WASH Activity

Amina, 15, collects water from the community-managed water system developed by the USAID Lowland WASH activity in the dry, lowland Afar Region of Ethiopia. With water readily available, girls like Amina are able to spend more time in schools instead of finding water sources.

The USAID Lowland WASH activity operates in Afar and other regions of the country with populations vulnerable to drought and climate change. The activity works with national and regional Government of Ethiopia institutions and stakeholders to provide technical services, small-scale infrastructure, and related resources. View on Flickr.

Submitted by AECOM

Community Water Keepers in Madagascar

Antehiroka, Madagascar. Photo credit: Alexander Joe

Antehiroka sits about 17 km outside of Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. Photographer Alexander Joe visited this small community to tell the story of Marie Jeanne and her husband Ranaivo, who run a water kiosk six days a week. They start working at 4:30 a.m. filling up water containers. Some residents put their water cans at the tap at midnight to be in the front of the line. This photo, taken around 4:50 a.m., shows Marie Jeanne taking first shift, with her husband waiting his turn. View on Flickr.

Submitted by Alexander Joe

In Angola, There’s Magic in the Water

Mbovo Village, Benguela Province, Angola. Photo credit: Clint Still/JAM International

Anthropologist Loren Eiseley once said “If there’s magic on this planet, it’s found in water.” This photo was taken after Mbovo Village in Angola received its first water pump, which saves them hours walking to disease-laden rivers. The palpable joy expressed by the villagers serves as a reminder not to take water for granted. The pump was made possible through the work of JAM International, an international humanitarian relief and development organization based in South Africa. View on Flickr.

Submitted by Joint Aid Management (JAM) International

By Chris Holt

This article appears in Global Waters, Vol. 9, Issue 3; for past issues of the magazine, visit Global Waters’ homepage on



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USAID and its partners improve access to clean water and safe sanitation to create a healthier and more #WaterSecureWorld. For more, visit